This is a Volvo power steering pump.  It failed.  Twice.  Well, this one only failed once, but it was an attempted replacement for another that had the exact same manufacturing problem.  It pains me to recognize that my garage did not skimp; they bought the best new part available.  This was it.

As a result?  I am still on the road, but only by the goodwill and skill of a mechanic in Raymond, ME – Kevin at Swedish Motors – who took the used pump out of his own Volvo on a day he was supposed to be in a parade.  Actually, he DID drive in the parade, and then came back to the garage and got me all fixed up by end-of-day on a Saturday.  He took one look at the part pictured above and diagnosed the problem: an extra thread in the entry tube, which prevented the O-ring from functioning as a proper seal, allowing all the fluid to escape.

As I write this from Detroit, I think about the relationship between skill and materials.  In making the shapes of civilization, one does not seem free to surpass the other.  They are inescapably intertwined.   However, at the end of the day, a Saturday in fact, at the end of an even longer week, skill appears to have a distinct advantage.  Skill can recognize, source and repurpose materials when necessary, expanding the volcabulary of what’s possible.

So THANKS, Kevin.  I’ll be checking out the Motown Historial Museum today – instead of simpering over an abbreviated trip back home in Connecticut – because you were creative, quick and highly skillful.  And happy to materialize when needed.